What You Need to Know Before Your First Telemedicine Appointment/Virtual Doctor’s Appointment
Sometimes the hardest part of going to the doctor is actually making the time to get there. Between work, taking care of kids and personal responsibilities, it can be difficult to carve out the necessary time to take care of your health. Telemedicine is on the rise, and here’s how to prepare for your first telemedicine appointment.
The good news is there is an alternative solution that eliminates travel time (plus time spent in the waiting room) and may be cheaper than traditional doctor’s appointments. Thanks to innovative communication platforms and increased online security, telemedicine offers patients many benefits, including a convenient and travel-free way to connect with doctors from home. It’s not only a convenient and low-cost option for patients in remote areas, but it also offers many benefits for patients. These include more privacy, less interference with work, life, and responsibilities, and no exposure to other patients who may be potentially contagious.
New to telemedicine? Here’s what you need to know before your first appointment.
What Is Telemedicine?
A Telemedicine appointment, sometimes referred to as telehealth, is comprehensive of all health services, including evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment, that are provided using telecommunication technology. Typically, this means healthcare is provided in real time using two-way video conferencing. File sharing, such as the transmission of photos, films, x-rays, and patient history, as well as remote monitoring and even mobile health apps are often included in telemedicine.
When Can I Use Telemedicine?
Telemedicine appointments are used when the “same standard of care” can be applied as that of in-person visits. This means that not all medical conditions and illnesses can be treated via virtual appointments.
However, general consultations, mental health care, follow-up visits, chronic disease management, remote post-hospitalization care, preventative care support, school-based telehealth, and assisted living center support are all types of healthcare services that are ideally suited to telehealth appointments.
How Do I Find a Telemedicine Provider?
First, check with your primary healthcare provider. It’s possible they already have a telehealth system in place, so setting up a telemedicine appointment should be easy.
Otherwise, there are many online telemedicine platforms available, such as Teladoc, Amwell, and Doctor on Demand, as well as Heally for integrative medicine, which make it easy for you to talk to a doctor online.
Make sure the telemedicine platform you choose is HIPAA compliant. This refers to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and restricts who can access your personal health information. The platform you choose should also be HITECH compliant, which stands for Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act and builds on HIPAA’s privacy protections and governs the use of electronic medical records.
Finally, make sure the telemedicine platform you choose offers end-to-end-encryption to protect your privacy.
How to Prepare for a Telemedicine Appointment
Now, if you are preparing for your first Telemedicine appointment, there are a few things you should have ready before your consultation starts.
1. Have Your Device Ready
While you don’t need to travel to the doctor’s office, you do need to access a device with a video camera. During your telehealth appointment, you can typically speak to your doctor via video call on your computer, tablet or smartphone. However, talk to the medical office staff to ensure the device you choose is compatible or if there is a modality, such as a health portal or non-health app, they prefer.
If using a health portal, make sure you have signed up and can successfully log into the system before it’s time for your appointment, ideally one business day beforehand. If you have trouble logging in, call the medical office to resolve the issue as soon as possible.
Lastly, test your device’s speakers, volume, and camera ahead of time to ensure that technical difficulties don’t negatively affect your appointment. This will allow you to troubleshoot problems, such as no sound, before your doctor’s visit.
2. Find a Quiet Space
To make the best use of your telemedicine appointment, make sure that you have a quiet space to take your appointment. To minimize distractions, let your family know you need privacy for a set amount of time and not to disturb you. Ideally, take your appointment in a room with a door so you can close it to minimize outside noise and prevent people and pets from coming in.
Turn off the radio and TV. If you have a noisy ceiling fan or heating/cooling system, you might want to turn those off temporarily to reduce noise as well.
You’ll want to make sure the space you choose is close to your Wi-Fi router so you can get a good signal and ensure you have a good connection. Connecting an ethernet cable directly into your desktop device is best for supporting the bandwidth needed for video calls.
If possible, take steps to control the lighting in the room so the healthcare provider can get a clear look at you. This can be difficult if the space is dark or there’s excessive glare coming from outside. It’s a good idea to choose a room that gets a lot of natural light, but to prevent glare, avoid having the camera face directly into a window. Instead, have your largest light source either directly in front of you or at an angle, about 45 degrees away from your front.
To increase light, bring a lamp or two into the room if possible. If you can, avoid fluorescent bulbs and choose an LED light instead, which produces a more video-friendly color temperature. Ideally, you will want the light to be as white as possible, rather than a warm, amber glow.
3. Have Your Questions, Supplies, and Health Information Ready
It can be difficult to remember all the questions and concerns you have when you’re asked on the spot. That’s why we recommend preparing a list ahead of time, so you can refer to it during the doctor’s visit.
This will help ensure all your needs are met, your concerns are alleviated, you’re as educated as possible about your health, and that the appointment is as productive as possible.
The physician may also ask about the medications you’re taking, so draft a list of them, including any vitamins, supplements, prescriptions, and over-the-counter drugs.
The office staff may also give you parameters for the call, such as what the doctor will be looking for and what supplies you might need. For example, you might be asked to have a thermometer, scale, blood pressure cuff, or other health supplies ready. It’s good to know this beforehand.